The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator is exploring charging Scottish charities to fund its work, the regulator’s latest accounts say.
In its annual report and accounts for the year to the end of March, published today, the OSCR says that insufficient funding means a levy on charities is now under consideration.
The Charity Commission for England and Wales is expected to publish a long-awaited consultation on charging charities to finance the regulator, which has suffered large cuts to its central government grant and experienced higher levels of demand on its services.
The latest accounts from the OSCR say that the regulator’s budget has remained static while simultaneously facing the lifting of a 1 per cent public sector pay cap and committing to make all of its services available online.
"For that reason, we will await with interest the outcome of the Charity Commission for England and Wales’s consultation on a range of possible stakeholder-charging models," the accounts say.
"This is not something we have previously been actively considering, but it is an option we must now explore."
The regulator received £2.9m in funding from the Scottish government for its work last year, and reported operating costs of almost £3m over the same period.
In its annual review, which was also released today, the OSCR says that the number of concerns about charities reported from external sources rose by almost a half last year.
The review shows that it handled 506 concerns about charities over the course of the year, an increase of 45 per cent on the previous year. The regulator used its powers on 174 of those occasions, the review says.
The report also reveals a 13 per cent increase in successful applications for charitable status in Scotland last year.
The OSCR handled 1,184 applications to become a charity over the course of the year, 961 of which were successful, the report says.
Of the new charities approved by the regulator, 64 per cent were Scottish charitable incorporated organisations, a type of charity unique to Scotland that provides greater protection from liability and allows the organisation to employ staff and enter into contracts.
David Robb, chief executive of the OSCR, said: "Ultimately, all of our work has contributed towards public trust.
"We are pleased to see evidence from our recent charity surveys that trust levels have remained generally the same. However, we would like to stress how important it is for charities to share their stories. Let everyone know about the great work you do and, if things go wrong, be candid with your supporters and the wider public to maintain their confidence."